Emory Law Journal


The law recognizes the frailty of human nature by mitigating murder to manslaughter when committed in the heat of passion or under extreme emotional disturbance. Evolutionary analysis entails the scientific study of the principles of human nature. Yet, the law's understanding of human nature is not congruent with evolutionary analysis. To be legally provoked under common law for manslaughter mitigation, a homicide must be in response to one of four kinds of provocation: adultery, mutual combat, false arrest, and violent assault. And under adultery, only sexual infidelity counts. Sexual infidelity is not the only type of infidelity that can push a person into a homicidal rage, and while American jurisdictions have started moving away from the rigid categories, sexual infidelity remains a paradigmatic approach for mitigation. The Model Penal Code attempted to make the law more contextual, but it created a new series of adjudications that are expansive and also incongruent with evolutionary analysis.